Blithe Spirit remake great idea, but disappointing

Image: supplied
Image: supplied
Blithe Spirit
Director: Edward Hall
Stars: Isla Fisher, Dan Stevens, Judi Dench, Leslie Mann, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, James Flett, Michele Dotrice

Rating: PG 

Two and a-half  stars (out of five)


On paper, a modern remake of Noel Coward’s crowd-pleasing Blithe Spirit (Rialto) looks like a splendid idea. It has only been filmed once, in 1945, and the idea of the ghost of the first wife causing havoc in the second marriage is still amusing.  

Why this is not a triumph is hard to pin down at first. 

The sets and costumes are as immaculate as any Agatha Christie production. The actors do their best. 

Dan Stevens shows his class as Charles Condomine - a man who suddenly finds himself unsuccessfully coping with two wives.  

Unsurprisingly, the thing is stolen by Judi Dench as Madame Arcati the dodgy medium who summons the spirit of Charles's first wife Elvira (Leslie Mann). 

Elvira is unimpressed by the new Mrs Condomine and sees no reason why she and Charles should not take things from where they left off. 

As only Charles can see Elvira at first, Ruth (Isla Fisher) the new wife is mystified why he is behaving so oddly, but as Elvira makes her presence known she comes to realise she has to fight dirty with a ghost to keep her husband. 

That sounds rather good, but I have outlined the Noel Coward set-up and for some arrogant reason director Edward Hall thinks he knows better than Coward about what makes a comedy hum. 

Shoehorning our social justice concerns into a World War 2-era comedy does not make the laughs flow more freely, which most of us would find entirely predictable.  

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